Town fears loss of clinic
Wheatland officials are concerned that Sutter North Medical Foundation will close the city's only clinic.
Sutter North spokeswoman Julie Eckardt said Wheatland Family Practice, which is visited by an average of eight patients per day, is losing money.
“We really can't operate under current conditions,” said Eckardt.
Closing the clinic, which has been unprofitable, is one option being considered. No closing date has been set, she said.
The primary clinic at 411 Fourth St. is staffed one-half day per week by a physician and five days a week by a physician's assistant and another staff member, she said.
If the clinic were to close, patients could be asked to travel to one of Sutter North's Yuba City clinics, said Eckardt, who acknowledged that transportation could be a problem for some.
City Manager Stephen L. Wright asked Sutter North to reconsider.
In a letter to Sutter North Medical Foundation chief executive officer David Yamamoto, Wright asked hospital officials “to look at both the positive benefits that your facility provides to this community as well as the significant opportunity that exists for this facility as Wheatland grows.”
New subdivisions will add 1,200 homes to the city, said Wright.
“As you know, your Wheatland office is the only such facility in the city and it serves not only the citizens within the city, but also the surrounding region. The drive to Yuba City is usually 30 minutes on a good traffic day for those who have their own means of transportation,” Wright wrote.
Public transportation to Yuba City - by Yuba-Sutter Transit bus - is available just one day a week, he said.
Two City Council members circulated petitions to keep the clinic open, collecting about 400 signatures. The petitions were submitted to Sutter North, said Wright.
More than one factor contributes to poor business at the clinic, said Eckardt.
Many Wheatland residents work in Sacramento for companies whose insurance coverage does not include Sutter North, she said.
Also, the clinic is in rented space off the beaten track, making it less visible. The foundation has been unable to find other, affordable quarters, she said.
“We met with several builders, but the rent was cost-prohibitive,” said Eckardt.
Kaiser Permanente is scheduled to open a new clinic in Lincoln on Oct. 9. A Kaiser Permanente spokesman estimated in March that 1,200 Wheatland residents will travel there for primary care.
Lincoln, in Placer County, is 12 miles south of Wheatland on Highway 65.
Eckardt said Sutter North Medical Foundation board members are considering another option besides closing the clinic but that details will not be available until next week.
If the clinic closes, reopening it sometime in the future would be possible, she said.
Appeal-Democrat reporter Rob Young can be reached at 749-4710. You may e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.